Do you have your eyes on Virginia for your next property? With a median rent rate of $1,997 a month and stunning sights such as the Blue Ridge Mountains and Colonial Williamsburg, it’s not a bad choice. However, as with any state, you must first familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations that guide rental businesses in the state. Below are some of the housing laws that Virginia expects you to know and follow as a landlord.
Keeping your tenant’s security deposit safe should be one of your primary concerns as a landlord. That money is something your tenant worked hard for and expects back at the termination of their lease, with exceptions for damages or fees. It’s important that you know the ins and outs of Virginia security deposit law before taking any money from your tenants.
The deposit limit in Virginia is two months’ rent, and landlords are expected to return that amount within 45 days of the lease termination date. There are no laws specifying where landlords must keep the security deposit, and there also isn’t a requirement that you need to pay tenants the interest it has accrued. However, if you find that you need to make deductions from the security deposit amount for warranted reasons (damage beyond wear and tear, unpaid fees, etc.), you need to provide the tenant an itemized list of what deductions you made and why.
If the tenant’s rental insurance provider is licensed and approved by the Virginia State Corporation Commission, they may purchase renter’s insurance instead of paying a security deposit. However, the coverage must be no less than the amount the landlord requires for their security deposits and must remain effective for the entire term of the lease.
A required disclosure is a written notice you must distribute to all potential tenants detailing any important information regarding your property. Usually, these notices include a disclaimer for mold or regarding landlord/agent identity. In Virginia, you also have to disclose whether the residential property is close to a military air installation. This means that if the property is within a zone that has a noise or accident risk, you must tell your tenants via a written notice.
Also, if your unit has defective drywall or you have plans to demolish a multifamily dwelling unit, you must tell prospective tenants in writing. As in many states, Virginia requires landlords to provide a rental rules list, a list detailing tenant rights and a copy of the lease within one month of the tenant moving in.
Dealing with evicting a tenant is difficult and, at times, legally complicated. Eviction laws in Virginia require that landlords give tenants a 30-day notice to cure or quit (also known as a VA pay or quit notice) if they have breached an aspect of the lease. If the tenant can comply within 21 days, they are allowed to remain in the property; if they do not, they must use the remaining 9 days of the notice to vacate the property. Complying with this notice usually includes paying back any unpaid rent or fees, or remedying any damage done to the unit. However, Virginia landlord tenant laws also specify that if payment isn’t enough to fix the situation, the landlord does not need to give an opportunity for the tenant to fix the breach.
If the tenant’s violation is criminal in nature or otherwise poses a health and safety risk to themselves or others, landlords are allowed to terminate the tenancy immediately and do not need to give that tenant the chance to remedy their violation.
Fair Housing Protections
Virginia law adds on to the seven federally protected housing classes. In addition to race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, and familial status, Virginia also protects tenants from discrimination based on source of income, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, and age. When conducting tenant screening, enforcing rental rules, or evicting a tenant, always recognize that the Fair Housing Act protects against such discrimination, and be cognizant of any biases you may subconsciously have or be acting on.
Rent and Fees
Collecting rent and charging fees is how you get paid, so be sure you’re aligning with Virginia state laws to make sure you get all the money you’re owed. Keep in mind that landlords can charge a nonrefundable application fee of up to $50, and the charge can only be $32 or less if the unit is a public housing unit subject to regulation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). All out-of-pocket fees included in sending those background or credit checks to a 3rd party should be paid by the landlord.
There is no statewide rent control in Virginia, though raising rent as revenge for any tenant action (joining a tenant’s group, filing a complaint, etc.) is illegal in every state.
Lastly, late fees in Virginia are limited to either 10% of monthly rent or 10% of the remaining balance that the tenant owes, whichever amount is less.
Embarking on a new investment property journey can be overwhelming, and it may seem like there’s lots of red tape. However, if you use the information above as a starting point, researching relevant real estate laws in your area should not be difficult.